“Queenie,” “Madam Queen,” “Madam St. Clair,” “Queen of the Coverage Rackets” – whichever of the numerous nicknames you realize her by, Stephanie St. Clair is likely one of the most formidable mobsters of the twentieth century. 

Queenie - Stephanie St Clair
Picture: Twitter/QkrSocialist

St. Clair spent her legal profession rubbing elbows with New York’s well-known figures, from main civil rights activists to the fearsome heads of the mafia’s 5 Households.

With the “Godfather of Harlem,” Bumpy Johnson, as her employed safety, Stephanie St. Clair was an imposing presence on the New York underground playing scene.

But, her devotion to uplifting Black Harlemites by means of activism and schooling earned the respect and admiration of her friends.

She was recognized round Harlem for a lot of issues, her frequent (and infrequently entertaining) newspaper adverts being one in all them.

Nevertheless, it was her steadfast resolve in standing as much as corrupt law enforcement officials and rival racketeers like Dutch Schultz that finally stays St. Clair’s greatest legacy.

Early Life

Stephanie St. Clair spent most of her grownup life within the public eye, taking out full newspaper adverts to encourage her friends or handle her foes. Nevertheless, her youth is shrouded in thriller, which is partly St. Clair’s personal doing.

There are a number of variations of her childhood, however most accounts state that she was born on December 24, 1897, within the French archipelago Guadeloupe.

On this model of her origin story, her French Caribbean background meant she might learn in each French and English, making her much more educated than most white People.

Stephanie St. Clair
Picture: AZ Martinique

One other model of her mythology (the unfold of which St. Clair herself contributed to) is that she was really born in France and taught herself English on the voyage to the US.

Whichever model is true, each accounts acknowledge that she traveled by steamer to the US (although whether or not this occurred in 1911 or 1921 remains to be up for debate).

The Rise Of The Queen Of Harlem                      

St. Clair arrived in New York within the midst of the Nice Migration, the place greater than six million African People moved North to flee the persecution of the Jim Crow South.

She shortly settled within the African-American neighborhood of Harlem and started to sow the seeds of her legal profession by becoming a member of (and finally main) the Forty Thieves.

Initially fashioned within the 1820s, the Forty Thieves was one in all New York’s oldest legal gangs, well-known for operating theft and extortion rackets.

It’s unclear precisely how she got here up with the cash, however St. Clair quickly determined to department out from the Thieves and invested $10,000 to develop her personal numbers racket.

Her new standing as a “coverage banker” would shortly entice the undesirable consideration of her rival male racketeers, so she employed the companies of a then little-known bodyguard, Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson.

Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson
Picture: Twitter/TheMobMuseum

Followers of the Epix collection The Godfather of Harlem will probably be nicely conscious of his identify, however what’s the significance of Johnson’s affiliation with the Queen of Harlem?

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Nicely, because of the employment of Stephanie St. Clair, “Bumpy” Johnson went on to dominate Harlem’s playing scene and grow to be one of the philanthropic mobsters of the twentieth century.

How Did The ‘Numbers Racket’ Work, And How Was St. Clair Concerned?

Playing was formally made unlawful in New York in 1908. Nevertheless, a constitutional ban on lotteries was enacted a long time earlier than, within the mid-1830s.

Because of this, underground lotteries had been rife, significantly in poor African-American neighborhoods like Harlem.

The “numbers racket” (also referred to as the “numbers recreation” or “Mafia lottery”) labored in an identical method to the Hispanic lottery “bolita,” nevertheless it was geared particularly towards the African-American group.

Merely put, the numbers racket was a small-scale lottery run on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood foundation.

Whereas some performed for enjoyable, many working-class Harlemites relied on the numbers racket to cowl the price of payments and garments.

Within the eyes of the legislation, St. Clair’s numbers racket was an unlawful crime ring that preyed on Harlem’s poorest residents. In precise truth, it had a number of advantages for the group.

St. Clair was capable of make use of dozens of Black women and men as ‘numbers runners’ and subsidize the low incomes they acquired on account of their exclusion from historically ‘white’ jobs.

As well as, the income from her racket allowed St. Clair to assist official black companies and publish newspaper adverts that helped educate Black Harlemites on their authorized and voting rights.

Queen of the Policy Rackets
Picture: montraykreyol.org

Nevertheless, Harlem’s police division didn’t see it this manner.

Regardless of having a number of officers in her employment, St. Clair was arrested in December 1929 for the possession of coverage slips.

On January 1, 1930 – simply two days after her arrest – she introduced within the Amsterdam Information, “I’ve been arrested and framed by three of the bravest and noblest cowards who put on civilian garments.”

In March 1930, she was sentenced to eight months in a piece camp. Instantly upon her launch in December, St. Clair sought revenge.

As a part of an investigation into police corruption, St. Clair testified in opposition to the cops on her bankroll and efficiently had over a dozen officers suspended from the pressure.

Crumbling Management

By the Thirties, Queenie and Bumpy had constructed an empire and dominated the Harlem playing scene with their thriving numbers racket.

There had all the time been rival racketeers making an attempt to muscle in on the operation. Nevertheless, the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 meant that mobsters who made their cash promoting liquor (referred to as “bootlegging”) had been on the lookout for methods to replenish their income.

Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer was, indubitably, the largest risk to each St. Clair and the whole playing trade in Harlem.

He focused rivals with excessive violence, forcing them handy over a share of their income or relinquish their operation to him totally.

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Those that refused to submit would face violent beatings and even homicide.

Dutch Schultz
Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Schultz’s unyielding want for whole management of the numbers racket resulted in over 40 deaths, and by 1935, the FBI had branded him “Public Enemy Quantity One.”

As a vastly profitable Black racketeer – and a lady at that – St. Clair was on the prime of his goal listing.

Taking On Public Enemy Quantity One

The Numbers Queen wasn’t about to go down with no combat and did every thing in her energy to cease Schultz and his gang from infiltrating her racket.

She made a degree of highlighting how Schultz’s actions had been closely racially motivated and inspired her friends to cease participating with companies (each authorized and unlawful) that weren’t black-owned.

St. Clair unfold this message each method she might, from full-page newspaper campaigns encouraging Harlemites to “Purchase Black” to violently destroying storefronts related to white racketeers.

In her personal phrases, taking over Schultz and his mob of thugs price St. Clair “820 days in jail plus three-quarters of 1,000,000 {dollars}.”

In fact, these actions caught the eye of the person himself, and in 1935 Schultz ordered a success on St. Clair.

Fearing for her life, the Numbers Queen was compelled into hiding and handed her enterprise over to her bodyguard-in-chief, Bumpy Johnson.

Bumpy Johnson and Stephanie St. Clair
Picture: Smithsonian Journal

Happily, her days in exile had been numbered.

Different distinguished racketeers – particularly the Italian mafia boss and “chairman” of New York’s 5 Households, Charlie “Fortunate” Luciano – determined to place an finish to Schultz’s reign of terror.

When Schultz ordered an unauthorized hit on District Lawyer Thomas Dewey, Luciano turned the tables and ordered the hit squad “Homicide, Inc.” to assassinate Schultz.

The hit came about on October 23, 1935, whereas Dutch and his associates had been eating on the Palace Chop Home.

Dutch lived for nearly a complete day after being shot – lengthy sufficient for St. Clair to retreat from hiding and ship him a telegraph that learn, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

Put up-Racket Life

After handing over her numbers empire to Johnson, St. Clair took a step again from the playing scene. But, her run-ins with the legislation solely appeared to extend.

She had all the time been a staunch civil rights activist, and in 1936 she married fellow activist and “soapbox speaker” Sufi Abdul Hamid.

Nevertheless, their relationship was doomed from the beginning.

Sufi Abdul Hamid and Stephanie St. Clair
Picture: Smithsonian Journal

Dubbed the “Black Hitler,” Hamid was an anti-Semite and an Islamic-Buddhist cult chief whose skewed morality conflicted with different distinguished activists of the period.

He ended up spending an enormous chunk of St. Clair’s wealth and dishonest on her with a younger fortune teller.

Unsurprisingly, the Numbers Queen didn’t take kindly to his infidelities, and in 1938 she shot Hamid throughout a combat.

Although she didn’t kill him, St. Clair was sentenced to as much as 10 years on the New York State Jail for Ladies.

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Little is thought about Stephanie St. Clair’s life after her launch from jail.

She stopped taking out adverts within the paper, solely resurfacing in print in a 1960 New York Put up article. Mayme Hatcher, the spouse of Bumpy Johnson, claimed she retired to a mansion in Lengthy Island.

Each accounts specify that she had transgressed from an unlawful numbers racketeer to a official businesswoman.

How Did St. Clair Die?

Stephanie St. Clair died in New York the identical method she arrived – shrouded in thriller.

Regardless of a life spent dominating the underground playing scene and turning into an advocate for civil rights, no report was fabricated from her loss of life in any of the native newspapers.

Removed from the dramatic and violent deaths of her male mobster contemporaries, St. Clair handed away peacefully in 1969 in Central Islip, New York.

The Legacy Of Stephanie St. Clair

Nearly her total legal profession was spent dwelling in 409 Edgecombe Avenue, an condominium advanced that housed Harlem’s Black elite.

409 Edgecombe Avenue - Where St. Clair lived
Picture: LPC/Elisa Urbanelli through nyc.gov

From civil rights activists like W.E.B. Du Bois to painters like Aaron Douglas and playwrights like Katherine Butler Jones, her neighbors had been on the forefront of the combat for civil rights.

Somewhat than conceal from the legislation, Stephanie St. Clair selected to step into the highlight and use her wealth to uplift her fellow Harlemites.

With no concern of the harmful repercussions her stoicism might have, St. Clair battled corruption from males each above and beneath the legislation – and regarded fabulous whereas doing so.

Her refusal to again all the way down to “Public Enemy Quantity One” Dutch Schultz not solely protected her personal racket from collapsing but additionally these of different Black racketeers who had been topic to his violent quest for domination.

Whereas holding her racket afloat inflated her personal wealth, it additionally offered numerous jobs for Black women and men and allowed her to put money into official Black-run companies.

In the meantime, she took on the NYPD head-to-head and gained. Alongside testifying in opposition to corrupt law enforcement officials, her common adverts within the Amsterdam Information helped to teach her friends on their authorized and voting rights.

As a substitute of indulging in harmful habits like her male mobster counterparts, St. Clair spent her life making an attempt to uplift her fellow Harlemites and utilizing violence solely as a way to an finish.

Madam Queen In The Media

Stephanie St. Clair has appeared as a facet character in The Cotton Membership (1984) and Hoodlum (1997).

She was additionally the main focus of a 2014 episode of Superstar Crime Recordsdata. As of but, no applications or motion pictures focus totally on her story.

Picture: Rejected Princesses

Nevertheless, that’s quickly set to alter. Two new initiatives are within the works that can concentrate on the life and instances of Stephanie St. Clair.

One is a collection referred to as Queenie, a BET Studios manufacturing set to start filming quickly.

The opposite is from HBO, who has introduced a movie about St. Clair tailored from a ebook by Shirley Stewart, The World of Stephanie St. Clair.

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